Astronomical Moment

    By;        Dan Neafus, Operations Manager
                Gates Planetarium, Denver, Colorado

    Submitted to Planetarian forum 2006

    Without question I feel that the most fascinating time period in Astronomy is
    between 1670 and 1690. If my history research is correct a number of events
    converged in this time period and it is only in retrospect that their importance is

    In 1679 Isaac Newton was
    lecturing about his optics
    experiments. A few years later
    Newton penned Philosophiae
    Naturalis Principa Mathemateca
    expanding on Kepler’s pioneering
    work in mathematics.

    His friend Edmund Halley
    recorded observations of a comet
    that matched the characteristics
    of another seen 76 years earlier
    (and later). In 1675 The Royal
    Greenwich Observatory was
    founded laying the groundwork for
    many of today’s navigational

    Meanwhile the great Polish
    observer Johannes Hevelius was
    painstakingly illustrating his
    measurements of the stars,
    creating one of the worlds great
    artistic masterpieces.

    Published in 1690 shortly after he
    died, the 56 engraved copper
    plates preserved a set of
    constellation drawings that make
    the skies appear to come alive
    with his imaginative characters.

    I can imagine watching these great men as they work, meticulously recording
    and evaluating, driven by a passion for discovery and a yearning to
    understand the world around them.

Image copyright
Denver Museum of Nature & Science